An emotional support animal is any animal that provides comfort by being with a person who needs them. These animals have not been trained to perform a specific task, which means that they are not synonymous with service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. While emotional support animals do not require specific training, they should be well-mannered in public. If they are not, both you and your animal may be asked to leave an establishment.
The first step toward getting an emotional support animal starts with a need for one. There are many mental health conditions in which an emotional support animal can be helpful. This includes but is not limited to: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and claustrophobia. There is no official licensing or governing agency to obtain an emotional support animal. The best place to start is with a licensed mental health professional or your primary care doctor, especially if you already have an established relationship with them. That way you can discuss physical health, mental health, emotional health and get the appropriate care you need in addition to an emotional support animal letter if indicated.
There are many sites where you can pay to get an emotional support animal letter. It is important to use caution when searching these websites, as the people providing these letters may not have a background in physical or mental health. For a person to legally qualify for an emotional support animal, they must be considered to have an emotional disability as determined by a licensed mental health provider or a primary care physician. Many of these sites have disclaimers denying any responsibility for providing an emotional support letter that does not meet the legal requirements in a person’s state. It is important to go to a reputable source for this letter, as misrepresentation of an emotional support animal is not only unethical, but in some states may also be illegal. Individuals with emotional support animals are protected under the Fair Housing Act which means that their emotional support animal is able to live with their owner even in non-pet-friendly housing. There is also protection under the Air Carrier Access Act which allows both service animals and emotional support animals to travel with their owners in the cabin of an aircraft during a flight.
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